Yesterday we covered the latest figures on registered “assault weapons” released by the Illinois State Police, which shows a continued and widespread non-compliance with the Protect Illinois Communities Act. We’re following up that post on today’s Bearing Arms Cam & Co with Dan Eldridge, the owner of Maxon Shooter’s Supplies and Indoor Range in Des Plaines, Illinois. Dan’s been taking a look at the newest data as well, and has plenty to say about the lack of affidavits filed with the Illinois State Police both ahead of and after the January 1 deadline.
According to his calculations, if roughly 1-in-5 Illinois gun owners possess one of the now-banned firearms, then less than 5 percent of them have complied with the state’s requirement that they submit an affidavit to that effect with the Illinois State Police. Eldridge says there’s certainly civil disobedience taking place, but he believes some of the non-compliance stems from uncertainty and ignorance about the law.
“The state police produced a number of documents that are supposed to guide people through the process; should this be registered, should this not be registered. But it’s incomplete and full of flaws,” Eldridge explained.
“They also didn’t promulgate this law very well. They have everybody’s mailing address on the FOID card. They could have sent a letter with an explainer saying this is the law and you have to do this, this, and this. They didn’t figure out the ‘this, this, and this’ particularly well, but more than that, there are people out there who own guns who aren’t as plugged in to gun rights as you and I and your audience are. They’re going about their lives, and who would expect that his or her turkey gun needs to be registered? Who would expect that their kid’s 10/22 rifle needs to be registered? So there’s that aspect of ignorance of the law as well.”
Dan and I both agree that non-compliance, for whatever reason, appears to be highest in downstate locations like Pope and Pike counties, where just 0.4 percent of all FOID holders have submitted affidavits. But even in places like Cook County fewer than 1 percent of FOID card holders have submitted affidavits, and the counties with the highest rates of compliance, like McLean and Lake counties, have seen less than 2 percent of FOID holders file affidavits with the state police.
Eldridge pointed out that Cook County has had its own “assault weapons” ban in place for years, which has probably cut down on the number of FOID holders who possess one of those items. But he also notes that the universe of guns banned under PICA is much bigger than the county-level bans, so even in the Chicagoland area it appears there’s a large amount of non-compliance with the registration mandate. Again, not every FOID card holder has a gun that must be registered, but there’s simply no way that the number of gun owners who fall under the provisions of the Protect Illinois Communities Act is anywhere close to the paltry number of affidavits on file.
One of the primary reasons why gun owners may be holding off is that they’re hoping the law will be overturned. Keeping track of the multiple lawsuits that have been filed can be a challenge all its own, but Eldridge says the case brought by the Federal Firearms Licensees of Illinois, along with three other lawsuits, are on a fast-track before U.S. District Judge Stephen McGlynn, and he’s hoping that we’ll have a good decision from the judge as early as mid-April. If the state appeals to the Seventh Circuit and no undue delays take place in the appellate court issuing its own opinion, Eldridge says he’s hopeful that the Supreme Court could grant cert for the term that begins in October of this year. Given that many downstate sheriffs and some state’s attorneys have said they have no plans on enforcing the law, it wouldn’t surprise me if many gun owners in those locales have decided there’s more potential reward than risk in not complying with the state’s demand to register firearms the legislature has made illegal.
In fact, attorneys for the state of Illinois are now contending that the risk of prosecution for failing to register is basically non-existent. In arguing to dismiss a Fifth Amendment claim against PICA, the attorney general’s office recently declared that no gun owner needs to worry about their right to avoid self-incrimination by registering after the deadline has passed.
In their response to a Fifth Amendment challenge to the state’s gun ban and registry in the Southern District of Illinois federal court, attorneys for the state say the right against self-incrimination isn’t violated by the registry.
The state’s lawyers argue the registration is a “voluntary benefit that exempts owners of certain” firearms from “otherwise applicable criminal penalties.” They also argue the “government has no authority to impose” penalties on those that don’t register and the idea someone would be prosecuted for what they file is “not real.”
“[T]he fanciful chain of events they have dreamed up has no serious chance of coming to fruition,” the filing said.
Then why impose a deadline or make possession of an unregistered firearm a criminal offense in the first place? “Allow us to keep this law because we promise we won’t enforce it” is an odd argument to make, and not one that Judge McGlynn is likely to find persuasive. For now, both the gun registry and the gun and magazine ban at the heart of PICA remain in place, but compliance with the registry remains an outlier among Illinois gun owners.